Bjorn Fortuin during a Proteas training session. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix
Bjorn Fortuin during a Proteas training session. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

SA selectors in spin over T20 World Cup

By Stuart Hess Time of article published Sep 10, 2021

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JOHANNESBURG - South Africa’s selectors juggled the spin options at their disposal for the T20 World Cup, picked one player who hasn’t played a T20 international, didn’t pick another who has featured frequently of late, and chose another who has only played sporadically in the last two years.

The composition of the spin element in the squad is only one part of some bizarre decisions that also saw ‘free agents’ like Faf du Plessis, Chris Morris and Imran Tahir ignored.

Bjorn Fortuin, Keshav Maharaj and Tabraiz Shamsi will be the three frontline spinners for the tournament, which South Africa’s brainstrust anticipate will take place on worn pitches in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Oman from late October. The Indian Premier League will be played to its conclusion in the region and then a first round competition in the T20 World Cup will also be played on the surfaces before the tournament proper begins.

So the need for and importance of spin options is understandable. How Victor Mpitsang as convenor and the national selections panel - Mark Boucher and Patrick Moroney - came to their final picks is less clear.

George Linde, who has started 14 of the 26 matches the Proteas have played since Boucher took over as head coach, was put in the reserve unit for the tournament. Instead Fortuin, who’s played just eight matches in the Boucher era is in the 15-man squad. In what to this point has been the stand out result for South Africa under Boucher - the series victory against the current T20 world champions the West Indies in the Caribbean - Linde played all five matches, Fortuin just one, bowling one over in the final match.

Mpitsang seemed to suggest that Linde was omitted to accommodate Wiaan Mulder and give the side an extra seam bowling all-rounder. “When it comes to George, he’s one of the all-rounders, he has done well with the ball. We’ve gone with the seaming all-rounders.”

“One thing about selection is role clarity,” said Mpitsang. “I know that with the bowling side of things George did really well, but he’s one of the allrounders that was picked in the side. Bjorn is also a spinner up front and that is where the swing had come. That’s why we went with that selection. Unfortunately George misses out.”

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If choosing one over the other was about a spinner that could open the bowling, that is also questionable, because Linde has done that in 11 of the matches he’s played, being awarded the man of the match award on two occasions. Fortuin has opened the bowling for South Africa eight times, and has also done so regularly at domestic level.

The other factor is Maharaj, who will make his T20 International debut in Colombo on Friday in the series with Sri Lanka where he will continue to captain the side in Temba Bavuma's injury-induced absence. His form of late - across formats - has been superb and especially his leadership and the growing influence has in the dressing room all played in his favour with the selectors.

“Kesh was unfortunate with the timelines we’ve had,” said Mpitsang, hinting that had South Africa been able to play more T20 matches, Maharaj would’ve been given a run earlier. “The selection panel felt Kesh is the no.1 Test spinner he’s bowled very well in those conditions and to have him there is obviously one of the reasons why he is there.”

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Meanwhile Lungi Ngidi, who is in the side for the World Cup, will no longer feature in the Sri Lanka series. Instead, Cricket SA announced Thursday that the big fast bowler will head straight to the UAE to link up with his Indian Premier League franchise, the Chennai Super Kings.

Ngidi was not considered for selection for the ODIs in Sri Lanka either, with CSA citing personal reasons at the time. It is understood that Ngidi will work with the national team’s former fitness trainer, Greg King, who is part of the Chennai staff, to accelerate his preparation ahead of the World Cup.

Meanwhile, Bavuma said Thursday that his rehabilitation following surgery to his thumb would take four weeks. That would mean Bavuma will return to training in the first week of October, well in advance of the team’s opening match in the World Cup against Australia on October 23.

SA Squad for T20 World Cup:

Temba Bavuma (capt), Quinton de Kock, Bjorn Fortuin, Reeza Hendricks, Heinrich Klaasen,, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Wiaan Mulder, Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortje, Dwaine Pretorius, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Rassie van der Dussen.

Reserves: George Linde, Andile Phehlukwayo, Lizaad Williams

@shockerhess

IOL Sport

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